Cincinnati Board of Education
Southwest Ohio, Local
The daughter of working-class parents who did not graduate high school, Carolyn and her brother learned the value of a good education and the benefit of a strong work ethic. First elected in 2015, Carolyn currently serves as the President of the Cincinnati Public Schools Board. Earlier this year, she was appointed by her Board colleagues to represent Cincinnati Public Schools on the Ohio School Board Association Board of Trustees, where she is entrusted to lend guidance and make decisions that impact students across the state of Ohio. Carolyn’s professional career spans over 40 years of service in both the private and public sector of mental health services delivery.
In 2020 Carolyn will continue her work as a Cincinnati Board of Education Member.
Meet the Candidate
Can you tell our members a little bit about your journey to filing as a candidate?
My journey to file as a candidate began as a parent of school-age children interested in making a difference in the lives of my children. I moved from Cincinnati’s urban area to an “urban-suburban” area when my oldest child was graduating high school and my youngest was entering school. I participated in the school’s Parent/Teacher Association, becoming more active when she entered 7th grade. At the same time, I worked as a mental health professional, providing direct services and managing programs for children and young adults who had serious mental health challenges, and their families. So, my life’s work centered around advocacy and service provision for children and families. While very supportive of the purpose and goals of PTA, I was led toward a desire to impact change at a different level, focused more on an interest in programmatic and systemic direction. While currently serving as a member of the Cincinnati Public Schools, I initially entered the school board race in the North College Hill City School District, serving 8 years in that capacity in a district of roughly 1,500 students. Upon becoming an empty- nester, I moved back into the Cincinnati area, during an election year, jumping into the race in 2015, and now completing my 1st term in an urban district of 36,000 students. Given my personal and life experiences I am committed to continuing to advocate for children, ensuring that all children receive quality, culturally responsive and equitable education, rich in academic content, social and life preparation, within the public education setting.
Tell our members about a friend or family member who inspired you to become a leader.
Born and raised in Cincinnati, as the daughter of working-class parents who did not graduate high school, I am proud to say that I am a first-generation college graduate. My Mother was most definitely my greatest inspiration. Through her eyes, I saw a strong woman with great potential in her own right. She modeled for me a strong work ethic; taught me not to be a quitter. She was the oldest girl in her family, growing up in an era when some children had to drop out of school to help support the family. It was expected of her. She was very intelligent yet never had a chance to finish her education. She valued education and instilled that in my brother and me. Her subtle ways of showing her approval of my accomplishments, never went unnoticed or unappreciated. My Mother did not get to know the person I’ve become, as she passed away before my life as a public servant began. Yet, I know she’d be proud of the work I do, not because of titles, but because of action.
One does not simply “become” a leader. Leadership is a gift, evolving from opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others. My Mother provided many of those opportunities.
Some of you are military veterans, some small business owners, some professionals, some mothers and grandmothers, some homemakers. How did one of these experiences shape who you are as a person and leader?
My professional career spans over 40 years of service in both the private and public sector of mental health services delivery. In January of this year, I retired from the Hamilton County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board. Focused on improving the quality of life for adults and children with persistent mental illness, my experience has encompassed provision of direct services, program management, system planning and coordination. Over my 28-year tenure there, my greatest achievement as a mental health professional occurred as the Project Director for a $9 ml federally funded grant to transform system of care for transition-age youth and young adults with serious emotional disturbance and multi-system needs. This program was implemented successfully and continues to be fully sustained as a valued component of the public mental health system.
My personal life experiences as a single parent of two children, for most of my early adulthood was challenging, however I persevered to achieve my established goals and thus, able to provide my children with a life of stability, education, and opportunities for them to become successful in their own right. My desire to ensure the best opportunities for them and all children led me to become active in the political arena. My journey has been defined, not so much by isolated experiences, but rather opportunities and choices.
The Matriots PAC has a goal to see 50% of all elected offices in Ohio held by women by 2028. What is your vision for Ohio in 2028?
I believe the role of women in influencing the ideals and policies that impact change in social and economic equality, empowerment, racial, ethnic, and gender equity for all people, is essential to society’s well-being. Women must continue to operate on legislative and political platforms as the change agents needed to give authority and guidance to political activity that ensure gender equity remains at the forefront of society’s conscience and actions.
I envision that in my community in 2028, more women locally will seek office, recognizing the power of their voice and actions to influence political platforms at all levels.
Tip O’Neill famously said that “all politics is local.” What are the top-two issues your community or our state face today?
Identifying the top two issues is challenging. However, key issues impacting vulnerable populations are those social/environmental factors that perpetuate a cycle of poverty, i.e., lack of affordable housing; affordable and appropriate health care; adverse childhood experiences (trauma), etc. These factors are mutually inclusive, and a mere example of the experiences of many of the children who attend our public schools, and their families. Local, state, and national arenas must be committed to the ideals of social justice and equality for all, build consensus around these perpetual issues, and respond intentionally to these issues.
Tell us something personal about yourself.
I am an avid fan of women’s/girls’ softball and spent 20 + years as a pitcher on a U.S.S.S.A. (formerly the United States Slow-pitch Softball Association) sanctioned competitive team. I ended my career as a player when my daughter expressed desire to play the sport, wherein I became a certified instructor in the sport of fast-pitch softball and began my coaching career, including instructing the art of pitching. My daughter went on to play Division I softball at a historical black college and university, while I went on to work as assistant coach for a high school team. In addition, I coached one year with the Cincinnati Reds’ RBI (Reviving Baseball in the Inner City).
My greatest pleasure and accomplishment is knowing that I was able to impact the lives of young women through sport – a great option for building character, learning practical life skills, and learning how to work with others. I am very proud of the accomplishments of the young women I have mentored and coached over the years, some of whom I continue to have a relationship, and a couple of them who volunteer with my campaign!
Finally, my first gift to my now 3-year old granddaughter was a pink and black softball glove, ball and bat. However, she may not follow in the footsteps of her Mom and I, unless she can play in a TuTu!